Making virtual teams work

As I work with a far flung [in three time zones, three countries, two continents] core team of peers and thoughtleaders, I’m discovering something new about virtual teamwork.

My first experience with working with a virtual creative team came in the Fall of 1996, when I spent 6 months pulling the 5 city HP Rocks the world Roadshow. Now remember, these were the days when dad and I were still amazed that the email bounced off Singapore to reach him three blocks from where I sat at HP in New Delhi.

Anyway, nostalgia apart, one key difference I learnt is in the way the hub functions in the team. Now conventionally this role has fallen on the so called "team leader", but in reality it works far more effectively if the hub, is not a ‘team lead’ but in fact a designer as enabler.

This role, first established by Bruce Nussbaum on his blog earlier this year, the divide between designers as form givers and designers as enablers, is one what makes or breaks the design, innovation or other creative teams.

Unlike the designer as a formgiver, accustomed to manifesting directly the vision in his head through his pencil and paper, the designer as an enabler usually prefers or may not be, in fact, able to, manifest himself or herself the vision imagined into tangible products or other designs.

Thus, as the hub for a team of designers and design thinkers, we form a metahub of being able to get things done, that is, jugaad. Because our collective aims are not to be the one whose design gets selected for production, a design management headache in itself, but creating a team where folks balance each others strengths and weaknesses out allowing the third party "team" to offer the best solution.

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